§ion=&combo2=&text1=&text2=&SocNetUsername=&SocNetPassword=&authCode=& 7th Decade Thoughts: The White Rhino Hotel by Bartle Bull

7th Decade Thoughts

Thoughts about books, politics and history (personal and otherwise), pictures I've taken and pictures I've edited.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The White Rhino Hotel by Bartle Bull

My initial assessment of this one was too sexist and too violent, but I ended up listening compulsively. (It was a sexist and violent time and place.) It's a great historical adventure tale that takes place in British East Africa right after WWI.

The characters are wonderful: an English aristocrat who's gradually sold all his land in England to finance his unsuccessful farms in Kenya. He owns the White Rhino. His barman and manager is a Goan dwarf with great ambitions and a lifetime of resentments against those who've not taken him seriously. The "hero" is a Brit who's mother took him to live with the gypsies (he doesn't know who his father was but his father-figure was the gypsy). He needs space and forest so he takes a job on a ship, jumps ship and goes to Kenya and is well on his way to becoming a "great white hunter". There's a German who fought for the Kaiser in Africa, lives to see German East Africa turned over to the British and his farm confiscated. There's Gwen who travels from Wales to meet her husband, who won a farm in Kenya as the result of auctionan favoring British soliders, but he's been injured and seems unlikely to survive in tough environment. Gwen, on the other hand, wants to succeed in Africa. There are assorted Africans, mainly Kikuyu who will help the outsiders understand the land and their enemies, the Masai. There are assorted dirt bags as well: an Indian who finance the farms for Europeans they expect to fail, a Portuguese "poseur", also out to scam the disabled soldiers, brutish Irish brothers who dispense violence and take what they want, an American hunter. This is not great lit, but it is great adventure. There are two more books which take up this story with some of the same characters, one taking place in Cairo in the 30ies and another in the desert with Rommel and Montgomery in WWII. The author seems to have begun a similar series on China too, covering the early twentieth century time period I've been reading about lately so I'm interested in those too.


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